PAINT IT BLACK

HOW TO USE THE DARKEST SHADE IN A WAY THAT’S CHIC AND EYE-CATCHING

Appeared in RESIDE Magazine.

Shading your walls in black may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re considering paint colors. But black has a daring all its own that can bring character and chicness to your space.

“The result is both unexpected and incredibly sophisticated,” says Andrea Magno, a Benjamin Moore color and design expert.

“Black has an interesting effect on the walls of a room because the corners and shadows are obscured more than if a midtone or pastel color is used,” Magno says. “This can be used as a visual trick to give the space a less-defined appearance and can make a room feel a bit more expansive.”

Black walls can also bring coziness. “Dark walls coupled with dramatic lighting create an instant air of luxury and sumptuousness,” says Karen Howes, CEO and founder of London-based interior-design firm Taylor Howes.

Choosing the Right Room

It’s important to consider the function of the room and also the time of day that you spend the most time there, Howes says. Great candidates for black walls include rooms used primarily as evening spaces or those that aren’t reliant on task lighting, such as home cinemas and dining rooms, she says.

In a media room, black walls help absorb the light and won’t distract from the room’s main function, Howes says. “We also find using darker tones in dining rooms helps create a luxurious feel in the evening when our clients are entertaining,” she says.

“Often the rooms that are most successful have a balance between light and dark—where black walls are paired with a light floor color or furniture done in neutrals and whites,” Magno adds.

A black accent wall in a bedroom
A black accent wall in a bedroom

Accent Versus All Four Walls

“Black can be a superb choice, as it allows you to play with contrasts,” says Nicolas Adnet of Studio MHNA, an architecture and design firm in Paris. “For example, if the rest of the room is done in pale or pastel palettes, painting a wall black can add drama and create atmosphere.”

A single black wall can also give character and structure to a space and be used to highlight furniture or a collection of art, Adnet notes.

If used as an accent, Magno says, it’s important that it creates a focal point and architecturally makes sense in the room. For instance, accent walls work well when a room has a wall with a fireplace or millwork, or when there is an alcove or other feature worthy of attention, she says.

Adding Dimension

Black walls can handle patterned accessories or upholstery. “The black will tend to recede, causing the pattern to advance or be more eye-catching,” Magno says. Repeating black in patterns also helps tie the look of the room together.

“For instance, many materials used for countertops—whether marble, granite, or quartz—have black running through them and can instantly create a visual connection between the walls and other features in the room,” Magno says.

A nearly all-black bedroom designed by Studio MHNA
A nearly all-black bedroom designed by Studio MHNA

Perfect Finish

The finish you choose for the paint can have different effects on the space. A matte black has a soft quality, while a high gloss will add reflection and drama.

“Using a semigloss or high-gloss finish works well in dark spaces, as it helps to bounce the light around,” Howes says. “We tend to combine different finishes in one space to get a nice balance.”

Using Trims Well

Often rooms with walls painted black have white or off-white trim for a clean look, Magno notes. “Black looks great when used in a space with neutral or white wainscoting or cabinetry because the contrast is striking and chic,” she adds.

For a sophisticated look, she recommends painting walls and trim or millwork in one black hue, and either using the same finish on both surfaces or using a lower sheen on the walls, such as a matte finish and a semigloss or high gloss on the trim.

Purple furniture pops in this black room by Taylor Howes
Purple furniture pops in this black room by Taylor Howes.

WHAT’S NEW IN ART, ARCHITECTURE, AND DESIGN

Published in RESIDE Magazine.

Floral paintings are making a contemporary comeback, farmhouses are getting modern face-lifts, and rooms are offering design “experiences.” Here are the latest trends in art, architecture, and design.

ART

A new generation of artists is breathing life into a centuries-old subject: florals. The works, which range from traditional botanicals to avant-garde abstractions and edgy photographic images, are intimate portraits of nature in all its glorious phases. Stockholm-based photographer Carl Kleiner often employs flowers in his works, creating undulating images with stems and petals in impossibly whimsical positions. Belfast painter Ted Pim has been creating oil-on-canvas rose bouquets for the past 15 years. The works, which sell for US$3,000 to US$22,000, are brutally brooding and literally dripping with subtle significance.

“Roses are a symbol of love but also can be incredibly dark,” he says. “I grew up listening to Tarot readings my friend’s grandmother did, and I learned that the rose is a symbol of balance. It expresses promise, new beginnings and hope. Its thorns represent defense, physicality, loss, and thoughtlessness. I use these themes in my work to create beautiful pieces of art.”

Inspired by 18th-century works of Dutch painter Rachel Ruysch, Pim deliberately flaws “perfect floral scenes, with every inch analyzed and overanalyzed for imperfections” by dripping a mixture of etching ink and white spirits over the work at the end to emphasize the unpredictability and fragility of life. “It’s a thrill to pour the mixture over the oils, trying to balance the elements of destruction and creation,” he says. “A lot of people would ask if the flowers I paint are dying or coming to life. I like that they have to make up their own minds.”

Belfast-based artist Ted Pim paints striking oil-on-canvas rose bouquets
Belfast-based artist Ted Pim paints striking oil-on-canvas rose bouquets.

 

ARCHITECTURE

The so-called modern farmhouse is one of the latest manifestations of the quest to create a classical, comfortable residence that is suitable for casual, contemporary life

The hybrid houses, which are, on the outside, spare and Shaker simple, feature opulent, open-plan interiors and are sited to exploit the sun and the natural breezes.

“Modern farmhouses combine traditional forms with the clarity, simplicity, and openness of Mid-Century Modern architecture,” says architect Matthew Griffith, a principal of in situ studio in Raleigh, N.C. “Farmhouses were not meant to be decorative—they were practical, and they were beautiful, quiet places.”

The wood-sided structures, which typically have durable metal roofs, take design cues from vernacular farmhouses, yet look more austerely elegant than agrarian.

A modern farmhouse from North Carolina-based in situ
A modern farmhouse from North Carolina-based in situ

 

“The interior spaces are not always one room,” Griffith says, noting that in one in situ studio project, a stairway serves as an architectural connector.

He says that the form, which blends indoor and outdoor spaces, has become so popular that “it’s a movement—developers of spec properties are using the term ‘modern farmhouse’ to describe them. Five years ago, when we designed our first one at a client’s behest, it was a novelty.”

DESIGN

The rooms we live in should not simply be seen but also appeal to the emotions. That’s the credo of experiential design, whose spaces stimulate the five senses.

Becky Shea, whose eponymous design firm is based in New York City and Los Angeles, sees such design as “holistic therapy” that creates “a subconscious calm.”

In her interiors, she evokes memories with, among other cues, materials, meditative ambient sound, living walls, and a signature scent diffused through the HVAC system.

Becky Shea used old flooring that meant something to her clients to create built-ins in a breakfast room
Becky Shea used old flooring that meant something to her clients to create built-ins in a breakfast room.

 

In one project where her clients were renovating the family home, she used its old flooring to create built-in cabinetry for the breakfast room. “Now, every day, they are reminded of the memories that were created on the floors,” she says.

For another home, she designed an oversize custom rug that matched the material of the client’s favorite sweater. “She told us how much she loves the experience of waking up and wiggling her toes in the plush alpaca boucle before starting her day,” Shea says.

Digging deeply into the client’s psyche is key to the process. “If conventional design is like dating, experiential design is more like being married with two kids and a pet,” she says. “We get to know every detail about our clients from what kind of deodorant they use to where they vacationed as children.” Shea says she knows the design is successful “when clients tell us they’ve never felt more ‘at home.’”